Yesterday's debate on the Public Schools budget was the perfect day to feel the true character of the Senate. Dean Cameron in carrying the bill on the floor spoke kindly of the process and the participants. Before I debated against the bill, I complemented the process and the sponsor as well as the hard work and long hours that went into the very budget which I was soon to say was a poor choice and simply was not the best we could do.
Republicans whose daughters and wives and relatives are teachers debated about how hard teachers work and how they will just work harder with less in the year ahead, how they are not in teaching for the money. In Senator Cameron's closing he thanked the minority, said kind things about those who debated against the $128 million cut to schools and then he went on to say how lucky we are and how much worse things are in other states.
The Senate is about civility, about decorum. We say kind things before going to battle, draw a flower and a sword at the same time.
Even while we Democrats made a motion to change the bill, to send it to the 14th order to take out the part that dismantles teacher's security, their contracts, the one thing that keeps politics out of the classroom -- even while we debated this cruel language we were kind. Edgar Malepeai debated eloquently that the language on contracts cut to the very soul of teachers. His tone was even, strong and yet kind.
There is a sum of meaning, even said kindly, that implies that we Democrats feel that Republicans had a choice whether or not to cut this deep... and that they choose the easy path, choose not to challenge the house so that they could go home soon, all because it is an election year.
We Democrats asked the Senate to join us in adding $35 million back into the budget from the grocery credit, election consolidation and school facilities fund. But instead they chose to pass the bill intact, cutting teachers, growing class sizes, eliminating tutoring, saying good bye to crisis counselors, hours of paid work, programs that help struggling students, academic materials, text books, all the tools that we try to use to make sure kids succeed...After debate, Dean Cameron came over and gave me a hug, for that is his character, and that is the character of the Senate. After session yesterday we went and played pool together, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans. You have to spend time here together outside the highly charged environment of policy. That is what makes it all work, reminding ourselves that regardless of the blades hidden inside the cordial debate, we are human. I've long known that.